Sarkozy Wins

Nikolas Sarkozy has been elected president of France:

PARIS – Nicolas Sarkozy, a blunt and uncompromising pro-American conservative, was elected president of France Sunday with a mandate to chart a new course for an economically sluggish nation struggling to incorporate immigrants and their children.

Sarkozy defeated Socialist Segolene Royal by 53-47 percent with 85 percent turnout, according to near-total results. It was a decisive victory for Sarkozy’s vision of freer markets and toughness on crime and immigration, over Royal’s gentler plan for preserving cherished welfare protections, including a 35-hour work week that Sarkozy called “absurd.”

“The people of France have chosen change,” Sarkozy told cheering supporters in a victory speech that sketched out a stronger global role for France and renewed partnership with the United States.

I find the reactions from bloggers on this side of the Pond puzzling by and large. It’s, basically, impossible to translate foreign politics into the American political spectrum. I think that American Democrats and Republicans have far more in common with each other than they do with any foreign political party and, indeed, it’s frequently been pointed out that the American Democratic and Republican Parties would fit tidily within the British Conservative Party from a policy standpoint with plenty of room for other viewpoints.

Sarkozy is without doubt more favorably disposed to state action than virtually all mainstream American politicians and I think it’s an exaggeration to, as some bloggers have, characterize him as either a staunch advocate of the free market or a rightwing nut. He’s French and his political positions must be understood within the French context.

I do think he has mainstreamed the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Jean Le Pen somewhat and doubt that’s a positive development. However, I do suspect that the message found some eager ears with Francois. Is a reaction developing? Time will tell.

10 comments… add one
  • I don’t think Sarkozy is really anti-immigrant, I think his position will end up helping immigrants assimilate. He expects immigrants to work, assimilate and follow the rules. Long-term that protects immigrants and ensures greater tolerance of immigration.

  • I don’t either, Michael. But he really has picked up the rhetoric.

  • I agree with Reynolds.

    Sarkozy picked up on some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric, but it strikes me it was largely aimed at (i) a certain fraction of the immigrant community that deserves a little shaking up, (ii) to protect his flanks, as at the same time he has clearly stated discrimination is a problem re “immigrants” (read native born French of the wrong colour, religious background, a usage that is at once terribly indicative of a profound xenophobia and illiberalism in the French public very much at odds with Anglo Saxon liberal tradition, and something that is as much of a problem as “immigrant” (real or just ‘wrong skin colour’) non-assimilation) and suggested affirmative action, a (gasp) Anglo Saxon concept.

    His Statism of course is the most disappointing aspect of his overall economic program, but if he follows domestic liberalisation, that will be an immense help. And from the commentary of supporters, domestic economic liberalisation was one of if not the key points of appeal for the “entering the serious job market” age group (24-36ish) as of course that age group has suffered most from the rigidities and sclerosis of the French economy.

    But you are spot on, American commentary on Sarko and Sego borders on the surreal in its… well poorly informed navel gazing aspect.

  • I might as well chime in as well.

    Few American conservatives are aware that, historically speaking the French Right has never been particularly friendly toward America. Sarkozy is exceptional.

    Neither the pre-WWII conservative Catholic nationalists who became Vichyites nor their DeGaullist enemies ever had much use for ” the Anglo-Saxons”. The Reagan administration officials were somewhat bewildered, initially, on how helpfully anti-Soviet the Socialist Francois Mitterand could be after the unhelpful but “rightist”Giscard D’Estaing.

  • I would add, mate, that the idea that Sarkozy is particularly “friendly” to the US is, well, “relative” –

    Chirac was considered particularly friendly to the US, having had connections there. But both Sarkozy and Chirac see their core appeal as “Gaullist” – indeed Sarkozy’s core rhetoric is Gaulist plus with Anglo Saxon economic model sympathies on the domestic level – the US blogs are badly, badly misreading the fellow – with their usual ill-informed self-fellating whankery.

    The only utility most American blogs have with respect to foreign affaires is to illustrate the … fairly poorly informed provincialism that reigns – of course this is not unique and is terribly human although American geography exagerates the effect.

  • I don’t think the bloggers reaction has much to do with Sarkozy’s domestic agenda as such. If it turns out to be a little more classically liberal some people will be pleased by that in the “See, even France thinks socialism sucks” way. (Although you can find Europeans expressing the exact same sentiment,

    But in reality I have never met a European of any nationality who understood American domestic politics either, (excepting a few folks from embassy staffs who actually had a decent, if limited, understanding.)

    I think many bloggers preferred Sarkozy over Royal anti-American rantings.

    And, to be fair, there was plenty of navel gazing about Royal in the preceding months as well, and almost all of that was lunacy.

  • Fletcher Christian Link

    Maybe, just maybe, France is growing a spine, and maybe this syndrome will spread.

    It appears that Sarkozy’s main idea is to ensure that all people living in France should follow the same laws, and that those who don’t want to do that and aren’t French citizens should get out forthwith, and those who don’t do that and are French will go to jail. Shock horror, as far as “liberals” are concerned!

    He also seems to want the French to actually work for a living. Shock horror again.

    It seems the spirit of Charles Martel isn’t dead yet.

  • Aaron Link

    You’re blaming bloggers for being improperly nuanced about Sarkozy, but your post includes a blurb from the AP that describes him as “a blunt and uncompromising pro-American conservative” which seems to me that the media is getting this wrong as well, no?

  • Of course we need to remember that there’s “platform” and then there’s “performance.” Sarko has a long way to go to change France in any profound way. He has the energy and the intelligence but he doesn’t seem to have a deep well of affection or loyalty from the French people. They seem to admire him but also to view him as a bit of an exotic creature, someone they’ll watch but maybe not follow.

    It’s a pity about Sego, though: she would have been shoo-in for “hottest world leader.”

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